Five Questions: Cincinnati Reds

For those of you don’t know me, I’ve been blogging the Reds for about two and a half years over at Reds Cutting Edge. I’m a huge Adam Dunn fan and if you’re asking the question, “Is that your real name?” the answer is, “No.” Oh crap, I just used up one of my questions. Oh well, you get a freebie. Anyway, it’s my handle and if you want more details on what it’s all about as well as a few things about me, then you can read all about it at my introductory post at Reds Cutting Edge.

I see the Reds in last place in a lot season of previews these days. Maybe it’s because they were just mediocre last year, but I’m a little more optimistic. I thought they’d be horrible last year and they weren’t. This year, I think they’re going to be mediocre, and I might just end up being right this time. I mean, they can’t finish below the Pirates, can they? Oops, another question. Okay, here are the read five questions……

1. Will this be the year Adam Dunn finally hits 50 home runs?

For the past four years, I’ve predicted that Dunn would break out, hit 50 home runs and put together an MVP caliber season. For the past four years, I’ve been wrong. His best season was 2004, when he set a career high with a .956 OPS, but it’s gone down every year since then. What he has gotten very good at though is hitting 40 home runs, which he’s done the past three seasons. That trend is expected to continue, asin the Hardball Times 2007 Season Preview, Dunn is projected to hit at least 40 home runs over the next three years.

Using my advanced algorithm, which consists of me licking my finger and holding it up to the wind, as well as checking to see how many days away we are from a full moon, I think Dunn is finally going to crack the 50 home run mark this season. He’ll turn 28 in November, which is around when players have those peak seasons and then he’s playing for his well being because a top notch season will go a long way towards the Reds picking up that hefty $13 million club option that Dunn has for the 2008 season. And I know spring stats mean squat, but Dunn has been raking this spring. He’s hit .400/.483/.720 with five home runs in 50 spring at-bats through Wednesday’s game.

2. Are the Reds better off with Ken Griffey, Jr. in right field?

At one point in time, Ken Griffey, Jr. was a great center fielder. Yeah, he may have been a bit overrated but he covered the field well and he made enough circus catches to reel in some Gold Gloves. The past few years though, Griffey has been a liability in center field. In fact if it was this latest injury that forced Griffey into a corner outfield spot, we might have paid his kid to break his arm a couple of years ago (okay, just kidding … sort of).

If you take a look at this chart, in the past three years, Griffey had the very worst zone rating (.719) of all qualifying NL center fielders in 2005 and he was fourth worst in 2006 (.764). And for the record, his injury filled 2004 season was right between those two at .735. In the meantime, the incumbent centerfielder, Ryan Freel, has had a zone rating of at least .826 the past three years in center field, which would have put him at third place in the National League last year amongst qualifiers.

So the quick answer is, yes, the Reds are better off with Griffey in right field. And this isn’t about him being safer in right either. I heard him interviewed and when asked whether he’d have a better chance of staying healthly in right then he would be in center, he didn’t hesitate with a negative answer. Regardless, it’s the best move for the team.

3. Will Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo be able to replicate their 2006 seasons?

Whenever I talk to someone about the Reds’ pitching, it always gets around to how their options at the middle and back end of their rotation are pretty poor. I then turn it around and ask whether they have confidence in last year’s two big guns because that’s probably more important than what the three, four and five starters do. I’m not as concerned about Harang because he now at least has two good seasons under his belt. Even if he “regresses” to his 2005 numbers I could live with that.

Bronson Arroyo is a tougher nut to crack. There’s no doubt he was very good in 2006 but it was after a mediocre 2005 season. There is some hope though, because 2006 looks a lot like 2004 with a few less starts, so maybe 2006 isn’t quite as fluky as we think. Regardless, whether the Reds have a competitive season or not will depend on the front end of their rotation, not on guys like Eric Milton and the yet to be named fifth starter.

4. Is Wayne Krivisky Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde?

There’s no doubt Wayne Krivisky made a solid impact on the Reds early in the season. His trade of Wily Mo Pena for Arroyo was a great move, at least so far, and then he got Brandon Phillips from the Indians for next to nothing. These moves more then made up for the fact that he saw something in Tony Womack. He cut bait on Womack pretty quickly though, so that’s also in his favor. It seemed like anything Krivisky touched turned to gold. Then “the trade” happened.

Yeah, that trade. You know the one I’m talking about. I had pushed it out of mind until now but you’ve forced me to relive the horror so I could properly write this column. He traded outfielder Austin Kearns, shortstop Felipe Lopez and reliever Ryan Wagner (a former first round draft pick) for, well, stuff. There was an already injured relief pitcher (Gary Majewski), another relief pitcher (Bill Bray) and then Royce Clayton and some other guys. It hurts me to think about it.

2007 was a whole lot of nothing as far as moves. Juan Castro was picked up, which means we’re wasting a roster spot. Then again, the Alex Gonzalez pickup wasn’t that bad. So the jury is still out, unless Kearns puts together the MVP season we’ve been waiting forever for, just in a Nationals uniform, then it’s definitely Mr. Hyde for Mr. Krivisky.

5. Will the Reds stay out of the cellar in 2007?

Yeah, at least I think so. The Pirates are still the Pirates and I think the Astros are pretty vulnerable this year as well. Anything better then fourth place though and you can call the Reds season a success. Yeah, there’s a lot of things that could go right. Harang could put together a Cy Young season and Dunn could go MVP on us. I also haven’t touched on Josh Hamilton because I’m not expecting much more out of him then a solid reserve outfielder. And hey, maybe Kid Junior has one more big season left in the tank. Barring all of that though, I see the Reds falling just short of .500 (say 75 wins). It looks a season where Reds fans won’t hide their head but hardly what you’d call exciting.

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